Originally published April 8, 2020.
Have you ever attended a ballgame in mid-summer at Harbor Park, Norfolk Virginia and say to yourself that voice sounds familiar? If you’re not native to the Hampton Roads Area, then you may not recognize that the voice calling the Norfolk Tides Baseball games since 1995, is the same voice that has been calling Old Dominion University home Football, Baseball, and Basketball games for over three decades. Jack Ankerson has been the familiar sound echoed through the public announcement speakers, providing Monarch fans a sense of contentment and pleasure. With the current pandemic from the Covid-19, Mace & Crown wanted to put together a piece showing homage for the man who has given the University so much.
While attending a home baseball game, we had the chance to sit down with Jack in hopes of getting to know a man with so much experience in the sports world especially here in the Hampton Roads area. Jack Ankerson was born March 1, 1942 in Neenah, Wisconsin where he attended Rippon College while playing quarterback. He also played basketball and tennis prior to moving on to a professional career. Jack also reflected on attending the same college Harrison Ford did during the same time. Jack was drafted in the 16th round of the 1964 NFL draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. “Back then, the pay was nothing like today. I remember holding out for an additional thousand dollars and I received a $3,000 signing bonus, which was quite a lot of money back then.” Jack’s broad range of knowledge materialized immensely and demonstrated why he could make impacts in other sports. After a short career in the NFL, he played a role in the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association before rising to larger roles as general manager of the San Antonio Spurs and the Virginia Squires.
The voice that everyone has come to enjoy throughout the Hampton Roads began in 1984, when Jack got started with radio commentating. He has also been the public announcer for the Men’s Basketball as well as the Lady Monarch’s Basketball teams since 2002. When the University launched their inaugural football season in 2009, Jack was there to provide fans with his exclusive style voice. Mace & Crown asked Jack what his favorite call while announcing games at ODU and Jack quickly responded with Tre Freeman’s game winning shot in 2015. Tre’s shot versus Murray State sent the Monarchs to Madison Square Gardens to compete further in the NIT. Over his extraordinary time at ODU, Jack enjoyed watching former players like Taylor Heinicke and Ryan Yarbrough perfect their skills prior to going professional.
Jack is a expert at his craft and game readiness is something he prepares for even to this day. “The most important thing for me when announcing a game, is that I pronounce the names correctly.” Jack differentiated how he would prepare for his upcoming games. For instance, he would begin working on names a week out when the Monarchs were home for a football game, while basketball games would have a quicker turnover. He explained how Tides games saw a lot of players who would return for either other games later in the year or the following season. Jack also would receive help from other media personnel that would advise him of any specific pronunciations or preferences when announcing their names. Jack is a humble and generous figure in our community. He has obtained temporary licensing to marry eight couples and expresses how he is so fortunate to be asked to conduct such a wonderful experience. When at the ballpark Jack is completely satisfied with a plain hotdog or a Johnsonville Bratwurst, prompting memories of growing up in Wisconsin. We’ve been so fortunate to have such an inspirational voice at Old Dominion University, and I’m sure Monarch Nation will continue to show its gratitude for Jack’s remarkable job.